The Nature of Language

Introduction

1.1What is linguistics 1.1.1Definition Linguistics is generally defined as the scientific study of language.

The Scope of Linguistics
Language is a complicated entity with multiple layers and facets , so the linguists have to concentrate on one aspect of it at a time. The study of sounds which are used in linguistic communication is called phonetics .

The study of how sounds are put together and used in communication is called phonology.

While sounds are primary in linguistic communication, they are represented by certain symbols, i.e. , words and morphemes. The study of the way in which morphemes are arranged to form words is called morphology.

The study of how morphemes and words are combined to form sentences is called syntax.The combination of these words to form permissible sentences in languages is governed by rules. .

but to convey meaning. The study of meaning in language is called semantics.The ultimate objective of language is not just to create grammatically well-formed sentences. .

at a certain place.. The study of meaning in context of use is called pragmatics . It always occurs in a context. . i. between participants with particular intentions.e. it always occurs at a certain time.Language communication does not occur in a vacuum.

Language is a social activity carried out in a certain social environment by human beings. Therefore. language and society are closely related. .

The language a person uses often reveals his social background. and there exist social norms that determine the type of language to be used on a certain occasion . .

The study of language with reference to society is called sociolinguistics. .Language changes are often caused by social changes.

.The study of language with reference to the workings of mind is called psycholinguistics.

The study of such applications is generally known as applied linguistics.Findings in linguistic studies can often be applied to the solution of such problems as the recovery of speech ability. .

But in a narrow sense. applied linguistics refers to the application of linguistic principles and theories to language teaching and learning. especially the teaching of foreign and second languages. .

´ . emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols.instinctive method of communicating ideas.According to Sapir (1921:8): ´Language is a purely human and non.

This definition suffers many defects. 1) However broadly we construe the terms ³ idea´. ³emotion´ and ³desire´. and ³ idea´ in particular is inherently imprecise. . it seems clear that there is much that is communicated by language which is not covered by any of them.

2) there are many systems of voluntarily produced symbols that we only count as languages in what we feel to be an extended or metaphorical sense of the word ³language´. .

.--would seem to satisfy this point of Sapir¶s definition. postures. eye-gaze.For example what is now popularly referred to by means of the expression ³body language´ ---which makes use of gestures. etc.

´ .In their Outline of Linguistic Analysis Bloch and Trager wrote (1942:5): ³A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group co-operates.

to the communicative function of language .What is striking about this definition. in contrast with Sapir ¶s is that it makes no appeal. except indirectly and by implication.

in doing so. as we shall see later. it takes a rather narrow view of the role that language p l a y s i n s o c i e t y . .Instead. and. it puts all the emphasis upon its social function.

.The Block and Trager definition differs from Sapir¶s in that it brings in the property of ³arbitrariness´ and explicitly restricts language to spoken language (thus making the phrase ³ written l a n g u a g e ´ contradictory).

.The term ³arbitrariness´ is here being used in a rather special sense.

Hall (1968:158) tells us that language is ³ the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oralauditory arbitrary s y m b o l s .In his Essay on Language. ´ .

better than ³ cooperation´) . the fact that both communication and interaction are introduced into the definition (³interaction´ being broader than and.Among the points to notice here are. in this respect. first of all.

e.second. to the receiver as well as the sender of the vocal signals that we identify as language. that the term ³ oral-auditory´ can be taken to be roughly equivalent to ³ vocal´ differing from it only in that ³ oral-auditory´ makes reference to the hearer as well as to the speaker i. .utterances).

.Hall. treats language as a purely human institution. and the term ³ institution´ makes explicit the view that the language that is used by a particular society is part of that society¶s culture. like Sapir.

´ Syntactic Structures (1957:13) .Chomsky says that ³From now on I will consider a language to be a set (finite or infinite) of sentences. each finite in length and constructed out of a finite set of elements.

Design Features of Human Language .

1) Arbitrariness: there are no direct or intrinsic links between form and meaning or between the signal and the message. .

There are sporadic instances in all languages of what is traditionally referred to as onomatopoeia: cf. ³peewit´. ³crash´. . The non-arbitrary connection between the form and the meaning of such onomatopoeic words as ³cuckoo´. in English.

.Onomatopoeic Motivation Primary onomatopoeia Primary onomatopoeia means the imitation of sounds by sounds.

. Goats bleat. Frogs croak. Bears growl Bulls bellow Cats mew ( purr) Eagles scream.Apes gibber.

Horses neigh ( snort).Asses bray. Flies buzz. Camels grunt. Beetles drone. Geese cackle (gabble). . Ducks quack.

Owls hoot (screech) Pigs squeal ( grunt). . Larks warble Magpies chatter.Hens cluck. Wolves howl. Lions roar Mice squeak pigeons coo. Turkeys gobble. Snakes hiss.

jangle. ting. ding-dong.clash. clank. tick-tack . clang. tinkle.

splash. bubble. sizz. drip-drop . splishsplosh. sizzle.

Secondary onomatopoeia It means that certain sounds and sound sequences are associated with certain senses in an expressive r e l a t i o n s h i p .

snatch 3)creeping: snake. snoop . snuff. sneak. snap. snore. snail.Sn1) breath-noise: sniff. snort 2)quick separation or movement: snip.

sly. slush. sludge 2) pejorative sense: slattern. slang. sloppy. slut. slovenly .Sl1) slippery: slide. sluice. slither. slip.

rump. stump. dump. chump. skid. skim. skin. hump. mump .Sk-: skate. skimp -ump: plump.

hurl . haste. hit. hurry. heave./h/ heavy. hoarse.

whinny.Whwham. whicker. wheeze. whop. whap. whomp. whang. whoop .

But the vast majority of the words in all languages are non-onomatopoeic: The connection between their form and their meaning is arbitrary in that. given the form. it is impossible to predict the form. . it is impossible to predict the meaning and. given the meaning.

.2) Duality: It is meant the property of having two levels of structure. The units of the primary level are composed of elements of the secondary level and each of the two levels has its own principles of organization.

3) creativity It refers to the ability that we all have to construct and understand an indefinitely large number of sentences in our native language. . but that are appropriate to the situation in which t h e y a r e u t t e r e d . including sentences that we have never heard before.

.4) displacement Displacement means that language can be used to talk about the things that exist in our world of experience or in the world of imagination.

or that are happening now or that will happen in the future. .We can use the language to talk about things that happened in the past .

. language has to be learned.5) Cultural Transmission It means that language is not genetically passed down from one generation to another. Rather.

.Some important distinctions in linguistics 1)Prescriptive vs descriptive If a linguistic study aims to describe and analyze the language people actually use. it is said to be descriptive If the linguistic study aims to lay down rules for correct and standard behaviour in using language. it is prescriptive.

. The description of a language as it changes through time is a d i a c h r o n i c s t u d y.2) Synchronic vs diachronic The description of a language at some point of time in history is a synchronic study.

3) Speech and writing Modern linguistics regards the spoken language as the natural or the primary medium of human language for some obvious reasons. .

The writing system is always invented by its users to record speech. C. . Speech plays a greater role than writing in the amount of information conveyed.A. Speech is prior to writing B. Speech is always the way in which every native speaker acquires his mother tongue. D.

4) Langue and parole Langue refers to the abstract linguistic system shared by all the members of a speech community. . Parole refers to the realization of langue in actual use.

Performance is the actual realization of this knowledge in linguistic communication.5) Competence and performance Competence is the ideal user¶s knowledge of the rules of his language. .

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